2019 Giving Report
Last year, I decided to donate 10% of my net income. My goal was to direct 60% of that amount towards saving lives and improving the health outcomes of the world’s poorest; 20% towards addressing important future problems; and the remaining 20% towards spreading happiness.
On Christmas Day, I donated €11,124 (I donated in CHF, EUR, JPY, and USD, thus the weird fractions):
Against Malaria Foundation €6,631.93
Helen Keller International €80.65
Innovations for Poverty Action €2,211.90
Maltiečiai €2,200.00Total €11,124.47
In addition to that, Google generously matched half of that sum, donating a further €5,800 to the Against Malaria Foundation.
Why Against Malaria Foundation?
GiveWell makes finding effective charities very simple — as long as your goal is to save lives or improve health outcomes. Donating to any of their top choices all but guarantees that your money will be used efficiently and truly do good. I chose the Against Malaria Foundation because of its focus on metrics, its track record, strong evidence supporting its approach to malaria prevention, impressive cost-effectiveness, and ability to scale.
My donation funded 3,630 anti-malaria nets that will protect 6,534 people in Togo.
Why Innovations for Poverty Action?
Choosing a charity that focuses on solving future problems was much more difficult. I could have supported an organisation working on biorisk reduction, nuclear security, climate change, or positive development of artificial intelligence. While all these are worthy causes, I decided to focus on global poverty and health instead:
- Its threats and interventions are often more measurable
- Its challenges are vast, yet tractable
- It focuses on the near future (my current priority)
- It’s something I understand to some extent — and want to keep learning about (so I will be able to make better decisions in 2020)
Evaluating the effectiveness of research organisations is difficult, especially when they perform a wide range of scientific studies and engage in non-research activities, such as policy outreach. I ended up deliberating between Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). IPA and J-PAL seem to be closely related, and thus donating to either might lead to similar results.
In the end, I chose IPA due to its more direct approach to addressing poverty: running randomized controlled trials and working with decision-makers in target countries to facilitate the adoption of the most effective solutions. In 2020, I would like to invest in a slightly longer-term future, so J-PAL might become my research organisation of choice.
Selecting an organisation that is addressing important future problems was not easy; figuring out how to effectively spread happiness turned out to be impossible. I could only find one charity that works on mental health and truly measures its effectiveness: StrongMinds. If I were a completely rational human being, I might have chosen StrongMinds — or decided to support an effective poverty alleviation programme instead.
But I am not completely rational.
I want to spread happiness; but I also want to make donation decisions that make me happy as well. Well, this one’s for my heart. I chose to donate to Maltiečiai (the Order of Malta in Lithuania) because of their work with Lithuania’s elderly, both the poor and the lonely. I believe that a few euros can go a long way, and that their soup not only fills an empty belly but also consoles a tired heart.
I believe that, but have no data to prove it.
It was hard — but worth it
Finding worthy charities was hard. Finding information about those charities was hard. Deciding which is more effective based on whatever they chose to disclose online was hard… Clicking the button to begin the transfer was hard. What I chose wrong?
And yet it was also immensely rewarding — my approach is flawed, and yet I know that the choices I made, while not necessarily optimal, were good. Maybe even great. I know that with a click of a button I probably made the world a slightly better place. And that is the best feeling in the universe.